In the movie Contagion, the population of a country becomes decimated because of the rapid spread of a virus and the inability of the medical community and government officials to identify what was happening quickly enough to address it. When epidemics spread, governments must develop plans to quickly assess and respond to these threats in order to protect the population. The AIDS epidemic, although not a contagion, is an example of exactly what happens when a government does not take rapid action in the face of an obvious public health issue; in that case, grassroots activists and ordinary people were the forces that ultimately resulted in research and treatment for the epidemic. This paper will discuss how the government should ideally respond to contagious diseases.

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The government must provide a rapid assessment in response to any apparent epidemic consisting of clusters of illness; there must be a great amount of information sharing between healthcare providers, healthcare settings, and governmental agencies. At the same time, there should be mobilization of medical personnel, medications, and equipment that will be necessary to address the situation. In-depth assessments should follow, as well as the development of essential programs such as identifying people affected, tracking morbidity and mortality rates, and providing psychological guidance to the population affected and on a preventive basis. There should also be an assessment of both short and long-term approaches to address the contagion, and whether or not taking responsive for preventative measures should be mandatory or voluntary.

When addressing such a public health issue, the government must also establish clear priorities because it may not be possible to implement all of the recommended actions, at least initially. In addition, the goals and strategies for control of the contagion must be defined; these generally include a goal of preventing a large number of deaths from the disease, and acting to reduce the transmission, sickness, and mortality rates from the illness. The strategy implemented should include coordinating a variety of people, programs, and researchers who can coordinate their efforts to establish a viable plan in order to limit the intensity and the duration of the contagion.

In such a situation, I would be extremely concerned about becoming one of the casualties of the contagion. As a result, I would make every effort to cut down on the chances that I would be exposed to airborne agents as well as bacterial agents. Normally, I am constantly washing my hands and using hand sanitizer anyway, especially after shaking hands with someone, touching the doorknob, or any other activities that put me in contact with germs. However, with the contagious virus I would also need to implement methods such as wearing a mask, such as the kind that medical personnel in hospitals wear when they are entering the operating room or the hospital rooms of patients who have compromised immune issues. I would also be especially aware of the behavior and appearance of others, so that if someone is coughing or sneezing or looks like they might have a fever, I would avoid that person whenever possible and if that was not possible, I would be sure to implement the methods that I have mentioned, i.e., a mask over my nose and mouth, and washing my hands are using hand sanitizer when and after coming in contact with that person. I am also aware that the correct way to cough is into one’s sleeve or arm, so I would do that myself and also try to educate others about the least contagious way to cough. Finally, I would be paranoid enough to be constantly listening to radio and TV and checking the Internet to keep track of everything that was going on including recommendations and warnings pertaining to the contagion. I am pretty germ phobic to begin with, and that would probably risk sending me over the edge.

  • Contagion. Dir. Stephen Soderberg. Perf. Matt Damon. 2011. Film.